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Can playing video games boost older adults' mental health?

Convincing my grandparents to join me in a game of Wii bowling or try their hand at playing Mario Kart would be a long shot, to say the least. But perhaps I could change their minds by telling them about new research from North Carolina State University showing that seniors who play video games have higher levels of well-being.

In the study, researchers surveyed a group of participants aged 63 and older about their video-game playing habits. Individuals then completed a number of tests designed to evaluate emotional and social well-being. Overall, nearly half of the participants said they played a digital game in the past year and a third reported playing once a week. Researchers wrote in the discussion section:

... Much of the psychological research conducted on the impact of digital games has focused on the possible adverse effects of playing digital games. Contrary to these and other studies, the findings of the current investigation suggest that older adults who reported playing digital games score, on average, significantly better than non-digital game playing on measures assessing a number of domains of successful aging. Specifically, older adults who were classified as Regular and Occasional Gamers reported less depression and lower negative affect as well as higher well-being than their non-gaming counterparts. One possibility for these findings is that digital games serve as a source of entertainment, which may lower negative affect and depression and increase well-being. In support of this interpretation, previous studies have found that adults who engage in more leisure activities report better emotional outcomes

The findings are particularly interesting in light of the nation's aging population and past research showing baby boomers are more depressed than other age groups.

Previously: Improving patients’ lives through video games and Elderly adults turn to social media to stay connected, stave off loneliness
Photo by North Carolina State University

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